Depressed child: How can I help?

You may be wondering: “But what if I have a depressed child? Is it possible?”

In this article we clarify what depression is, how we understand if the child is depressed or about to become depressed, what the signs are, how we can help, and who are the figures to ask.

Is it possible for me to have a depressed child?

Unfortunately, yes, because depression is an illness that can affect just about anyone, and like all illnesses, it can, and should, be prevented and treated.

About 350 million people in the world currently suffer from it, and a better understanding of the disease, how it can be prevented and treated, can help reduce the stigma that surrounds those who suffer from it, including children and teens.

Even in the developmental age group, in fact, the incidence of the phenomenon should not be underestimated, which is about 2 percent-which seems small but is a lot.

Just think, 2 children out of 100: in a kindergarten with 4 or 5 classes, at least 2 children suffer from depressive disorders.

How can I tell if the child is depressed?

The word depression is often used generically to describe deflected, discouraged mood, extreme despondency.

In reality, what makes depression such lies in the duration of the episode and its intensity: in fact, if it is a dejected mood, it will last for days rather than weeks or months, and above all, in the case of depression, there will be a loss of the individual’s overall functioning.

Children specifically may not be able to explain their feelings or internal experiences, so it is very important to listen and observe your son or daughter carefully.

What are the signs of depression?

The signs may be clear and unmistakable, but not necessarily.

Some of the main ones, may be angry outbursts, but also crying fits. The baby or child may appear extremely fragile but also very aggressive.

The most common and most easily detected symptoms are:

  • poor appetite or hyperphagia
  • insomnia or hypersomnia
  • low energy or fatigue
  • low self-esteem
  • poor concentration
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying) and/or suicidal ideation or plans
  • feelings of worthlessness (i.e., feeling rejected and unloved)
  • excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • loss of interest and/or absence of pleasure in almost any activity (often expressed as deep boredom).

In short, the symptoms can be diverse and different from each other, so it is critically important NOT to be a s’รจ, but to seek the advice of a developmental mental health professional.

This will help make a proper diagnosis and take care of the discomfort your child or young adult is experiencing, and you can move toward an appropriate therapeutic intervention.

depressed child

How can I help my child?

Although it may seem like a complex topic to deal with, always remember that it is possible to treat childhood depression.

In fact, the only thing you can and should do is to rely on a serious mental health professional who specializes in the developmental age.

Of course, in the meantime you can supervise your son or daughter’s behaviors, especially in the presence of contexts that might jeopardize his or her peace of mind, and offer the child or young adult a safe space without judgment, where he or she can talk and express himself or herself.

Try to create an environment where your child feels comfortable, so that he or she may be more likely to share his or her thoughts and emotions with you.

When in doubt, it is best to request a visit to the referring pediatrician to ascertain that there are no health causes behind such discomfort.

If there is no organic disease or disorder, then it will be a good idea to consult a mental health specialist.

Don’t wait for it to magically disappear.

The best advice I can give you as a professional is to NOT wait.

I know, it is scary to see your child being sick. Especially if that sickness can be felt but you cannot touch it, especially if it is not tangible.

The feeling is that you are dealing with something bigger than you, and the guilt causes you to have thoughts such as “but will it be my fault?”, “what did I do wrong?”, “why is he acting this way, what’s wrong?”

The illusion that sooner or later it will pass “on its own” puts parents in the position of waiting and not taking charge, as they should, of their child’s discomfort, but, precisely it is only an illusion.

Always ask yourself, “If my child’s throat hurt, what would I do?”, “If my child, rather than having overly aggressive behavior, coughed all day, would I wait to take her to the doctor?”

In the case of a positive diagnosis, don’t be frightened; it will be up to the chosen professional to establish a treatment to accompany your son/daughter on a path that can heal him/her and bring him/her back to serenity.

We are with you.

At Parentalife, we are by your side throughout the parenting journey, from the childbearing period, to childbirth, to life with children.

We support you with personalized guides and counseling.

Remember, you will never be alone, we are with you.

SOURCES

Bernaras E, Jaureguizar J, Garaigordobil M. Child and Adolescent Depression: A Review of Theories, Evaluation Instruments, Prevention Programs, and Treatments. Front Psychol. 2019 Mar 20;10:543. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00543. PMID: 30949092; PMCID: PMC6435492.

About the Author

Chiara Fabbiano - Psychologist